Skip to content
Interpreting the Evidence

Electric Power Plant at Niagara Falls, c. 1890

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Industrialization (1870 - 1900)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    Western New York
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Electric Power Plant at Niagara Falls, c. 1890 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
A drawing of a plan for an electric power plant powered by water diverted from the Niagara River at Niagara Falls, circa 1890.
Historical Context
In 1881, the Niagara Falls (New York) Hydraulic Power & Manufacturing Company produced the first electrical power for commercial use, using water from the Niagara River. Then in 1885, the first electric arc lights for street illumination replaced oil lamps in Niagara Falls, Canada, using electricity purchased from Niagara Falls, New York.  Today the falls is still producing a tremendous amount of electricity for surrounding areas.  Water is diverted from the river into conduits. The water is then returned to the river, passing through turbines that power thirteen generators, which is what makes electricity.
Essential Question
How does geography impact culture and economic systems?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain the influence of this water source on New York's culture and economy.
Historical Challenges
Compare this diagram to photographs of Niagara Falls today. How has the area stayed the same? How has it changed?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Science: What is a conduit? How is it used in the falls? How is electricity created from the water?
English Language Arts: Create a slogan for the Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power & Manufacturing Company to persuade people to use its power.